Almodóvar goes back to roots with hymn to women
Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar went back to his roots on Friday, paying homage to his mother and all women in his haunting film Volver, already hotly-tipped for the coveted Palme d’Or prize.
Penélope Cruz gives a stunning performance as a young, hardworking mother who has to confront the ghosts of her past. These ghosts have soured her relations with her own mother, played by Carmen Maura, who comes back from the dead.
In this movie, the few men seen in this tight, supportive female world are either idle, immoral, irrelevant or dead.
“Everything in the movie is inspired by the women who surrounded me in my childhood. They were really strong, powerful women who had to overcome huge problems that arose in their lives,” Almodóvar told a press conference.
“But the origin of just about all of the film was my mother. My mother is present in all the sequences, not only when the older women talk. Some of the sentences said by Penélope are things my mother said.”
Cruz paid tribute to the way the director, who was awarded best director at Cannes in 1999 for All About My Mother, seemed to manage to get inside women’s heads.
“I think he’s some kind of Martian,” she said with a laugh.
“I don’t understand myself how he sees so much. He’s so brave to put out there what he sees and he never judges.”
This contained, often comic movie opens with scores of women scrubbing and polishing the graves of their loved ones, and death is omnipresent in the film but not as something oppressive, or to be feared.
Instead dead spirits can bring succour and comfort to those in need. Key character Augustina, played by Blanca Portillo, raises a laugh as she tells how she often goes to her own waiting grave to relax, seeing it as a second home.
“This is not a feminist film but a feminine one. It’s a song to women, to the earth, to mothers ... to the way women cope with life,” Portillo said.
The film is filmed both in Madrid and in Almodóvar’s home region of La Mancha, where the unrelenting east wind is known to drive people mad and the locals have a very pragmatic relationship with death.
“This is a film in which I go back to my roots,” Almodóvar said. The title, Volver, means “to come back”.
In Spain, where it is already on release, the film has been packing in audiences, delighting them with a subtle, subdued atmosphere that contrasts with some of Almodovar’s more exhuberant, recent work.
Volver is among 20 films competing in the Cannes Film Festival. It was to be shown later on Friday in the official competition, only the third movie seen here so far. The award ceremony is not due until May 28.
It faces stiff competition from Ken Loach’s The Wind That Shakes the Barley, a tale set in rural Ireland in 1920, and Chinese director Lou Ye’s Summer Palace, a love story against the background of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Also to be seen later on Friday was Richard Linklater’s Fast Food Nation, a stomach-churning adaption of a bestselling book, expposing the downside of the junk food industry.
Greg Kinnear plays an executive of a hamburger group (called Mickey’s but easily recognisable as McDonald’s) sent to discover why the meat in a top-selling burger is contaminated with high levels of excrement.
What he glimpses—and what the viewer sees in detail backed up by documentary footage—is a disturbing industry where illegal Mexican immigrants working on meat preparation lines are treated with no more respect than the product they are slicing and eviscerating.—AFP